junior_ain's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U) review

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Some series are not meant to be taken lightly.

I've said it before in 2004, it doesn't matter whether or not this is too classic to be messed with, it doesn't matter if it's Nintendo most serious game and when people buy it -- and they'll buy it if the box clearly states that there is nothing inside, just a blank disc with the Zelda logo printed in order to drive fanboys crazy. They misunderstood Zelda, it is not something made to be carved in stone, this was always meant to walk alone with its own legs, with its own merits.

The life after Ocarina has been a drama about when or how will the next Ocarina arrive. People lost their minds when Wind Waker was announced and it turned out to be one of the best ideas Nintendo ever had, certainly the last great Zelda was back in 2004. Now Zelda once again tries something new, something people weren't expecting, like the 3-day cicle in Majora, like the cartoon style in Wind Waker, like none of the recent Zelda had the guts to offer.

People like always have complained, they have a right to do so, but the grand majesty of this game offers something to behold and an adventure that can be called even better than Ocarina. I'm not judging Ocarina of Time as simply a game that had its ups and downs, I'm referring to how groundbreaking it was, how it often gets chosen as one of, if not the best game ever. I can agree with that or I don't, that's my own choice.

Nintendo is not known for open-world, sandbox style games. They often have a set of gameplay mechanics that work around a completely optimized experience. The general product can be so solid that revising it doesn't even feel old. This level of freedom is seldom something in Nintendo's agenda.

Zelda Breath of the Wild gets any kind of reminiscence from the past and throws it off the window. Now-classic Zelda aspects like using bottles to store liquid, getting them during the adventure and having a finite set of them for example is lost. The general consensus of improving Link through use of different tunics and getting stronger shields/swords that follow a linear pattern, also gone.

Be ready to expect something different from Zelda, something you might find weird that a company that in the eyes of many have trouble moving on from ideas that proved resourceful, milking it to the last drop, they have now provided a grand and absolutely fresh experience.

Zelda's story might be one of the least memorable ones in all video-game's history. It's so convoluted, so hurriedly put together just for the sake of giving compulsory continuation nuts happy that it feels cheap. It's the same old guys with a sword trying to save the princess, not unlike Mario, except the sword. If you thought Link's arsenal also lacked an ability to jump you should think again because now he can not only jump but climb mountains to fully explore the vast world he's inserted in.

The old system where you optioned for some kind of item set through the custom button system is scratched. Now Link has a few powers in store to fight evil which includes the ability of telekinesis and stop-time to store kinetic energy for a full release after it goes back to normal. Even bombs are some kind of materialized exploding material that Link simply have access through the use of his special item.

The special item is some type of long-lost Sheikah artifact that can only be used by the chosen hero that acts as some kind of super-powered smart-phone, the same thing that allows Link to move objects through the air allows him to record a map and take photos. Through the use of this Sheikah amulet Link can access the several "shrines" around Hyrule. These are the main primary side-quests of Breath of the Wild since they're the stage-grounds that require the player to do something in order to receive a soul-orb of some kind. These soul-orbs actually improve Link's health (hearts) and stamina.

Secondary side-quests are the standard help someone out by doing something pretty mundane like cooking some kind of meal, that kind of stuff. Cooking plays a big part in this game because it's simply too easy to lose hearts. Gone are the days where people rushed through Zelda games trying to beat it with only 3 hearts. You'd be playing a one-hit kill in Breath of the Wild. Some enemies, and not even the bosses or sub-bosses, can easily chop off dozens of hearts from Link if their strongest attacks are yielded. Cooking has some complicated mechanics which includes different results for many, many different ingredients and classes of ingredients found all around.

The story is pretty good, even better if taken in consideration it's a Zelda game. In the past you had Link, Zelda and four other "champions" that maneuvered gigantic machines called Divine Beasts. Once Ganon spread its power he conquered these beasts and killed the champions. In a last-minute resource Zelda, Impa and other two elder characters put Link to sleep so he could one day awaken and bring peace to Hyrule. Princess Zelda was locked inside the Hyrule Castle while she tried to keep Calamity Ganon (basically the new fancy way to refer to Ganon) at bay.

One hundred years passed and the hero was reborn with no memory of the past, now he has to take controls of the relics from the past, the four Divine Beasts to have a chance against Ganon, who is almost prevailing over the now weakened Zelda. What's interesting is that you live the world that knows of a hero downed in battle 100 years ago, and yet, you're the one and only.

The story unfolds pretty nicely, something new for Nintendo as well, and the four different paths can be taken in any order you'd like. To tell the truth, much of what you really need to go through the game is given to you in the first two hours, the rest is better swords, shields, bows and ingredients.

What's been topic of hot debate and intense criticism is the weapon damage system. Any weapon you use takes self damage and could break at any moment. You'll get a signal that the weapon you're using is about to break but what caused the uproar was the fact that they don't really hold much fight in them. Some weaker stuff might last for 2 or 3 swings before they're sent down to oblivion. Other might take longer but most of them will break between 6-10 hits. When they break you have to choose another one which is bothersome but the action doesn't simply roll on.

Some other gameplay mechanics were added, like damage taken from altitude. higher altitudes generally mean harsher, colder climates and if you're not suited up for those situations with thick furry coats, good boots and breeches you'll take damage in time. The same goes for Death Mountain or the desert where you'll have to have clothes that support the extreme heat. Another solution would be brewing special potions that let you endure the extreme weather for a period.

Not everything is laid down on the table as you start the adventure, you might feel like a 10 year-old exploring the expanses of Super Mario World and feeling like getting to Donut Plains to be quite a feat. Weather will kill you; limited stamina limits your movement climbing wall of stones; new abilities aren't exactly easy to grasp, especially when you're expecting typical Zelda stuff; Enemies take a truck-load of damage; some enemies are not even beatable in the beginning. The vast land of Hyrule is as menacing as it is beautiful.

To go with the flow of a deserted land filled with chaos and condemned to doom you get a simplistic soundtrack which might sound completely absent at first, but ends up fitting perfectly with the general feel of the game. I actually checked to see if the music was enabled and searched online about it to make sure.

This Zelda is a 180 degree shift from the Zelda we're accustomed to, anyone looking to have their share of typical Zelda experience might leave frustrated with this one. This changes so many aspects of the game that it's actually a miracle that Nintendo chose to shift the direction it took so much. It takes some inspiration in modern gaming like Skyrim (big explorable world) and Assassin's Creed (climbing and navigating vertically), but also brings back some cool ideas from past game like Wind Waker (taking pictures and cataloging stuff). It's truly one of the best games ever developed, a worthy holder of the Zelda title, which was never meant to suffice with the lack of prestige from recent installments.

Other reviews for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U)

    Hyrule: Unmapped 0

    Note: Before I begin, I'd like to acknowledge the fact that the version of this game that I played (Wii U) was marred by some pretty intense performance issues, mostly dealing in framerate and hitching. The reason that I am pointing this out is because 1) the technically superior version (NSW), from both my observation and (admittedly light) first-hand experience, has a product stable enough that I wouldn't even point it out in a Switch-centric review, and 2) I'm not that interested in exploring...

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